London: Britain secretly obtained vast amounts of communications data from Pakistan to identify terrorists by hacking into routers in the country made by an American firm, according to US whistle-blower Edward Snowden.
The former intelligence contractor with the US National Security Agency (NSA) said that the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), British intelligence and security organisation responsible for providing signals intelligence, has been monitoring Pakistan’s communication data.
To access the data, the GCHQ hacked routers made by Cisco, Snowden said in an interview with the BBC.
He also stated that the spying was done with the permission of the British government and the apparent aim of such hacking was to aid in the identification of terrorists.
32-year-old Snowden, charged by the US with espionage and theft of government property after leaking sensitive documents to the media about NSA’s internet and phone surveillance, has been living in exile in Russia since June 2013.
Snowden also said that British spies can hack into phones remotely with a simple text message and make audio recordings or take photos without owners knowing.
“They want to own your phone instead of you,” he said.
The GCHQ had the power to hack into phones without their owners’ knowledge, he said.
Snowden said GCHQ could gain access to a handset by sending it an encrypted text message and use it for such things as taking pictures and listening in.
The UK government has declined to comment on Snowden’s claims.
He said both GCHQ and the NSA had invested heavily in technology allowing them to hack smartphones.